Letter: Contra Costa Sheriff David Livingston Must Be Held Accountable by the Board of Supervisors for His Remarks and He Should Resign

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Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group 2019 file photo)

Dear Sheriff Livingston and Honorable Members of the Board of Supervisors: 

The people of Contra Costa County deserve to feel safe and protected under the law regardless of their race, mental health condition, socio-economic background, immigration status, or sexual orientation. Equal protection under the law is impossible when the largest law enforcement agency in the county, the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Department (which contracts with several municipalities) is led by a man with a long history of disregard for disenfranchised communities. 

Now, Sheriff David Livingston has grown even more emboldened and has taken steps beyond his authority, suggesting cops that kill may do so with impunity. For this reason and those outlined below, we are calling for him to resign, and if he fails to resign, for the county Board of Supervisors to formally censure him. The Board of Supervisors should also use their authority to reallocate resources to programs and services that ensure the safety and wellbeing of all residents, rather than invest in a regime that threatens public safety. 

March 4th 2022 was a historic day of accountability, not just for Contra Costa but for the entire Bay Area, when former Deputy Andrew Hall was sentenced to six years for killing Laudemer Arboleda. Instead of reflecting on the successful closure of the judicial process, or perhaps rescinding prior remarks concerning a now disgraced Deputy, our sheriff decided to double-down on his “support” for Andrew Hall in an internal memo to his staff. This memo is a gross display of ineptitude and an affront to the families of Laudemer Arboleda and Tyrell Wilson, who are the victims of Andrew Hall’s reckless actions.  Even a split-second decision could be the wrong decision. Three of the other responding officers on 11/3/2018 had their guns drawn at Laudemer, and in that split second they chose not to shoot. 

In the memo distributed to his staff, the Sheriff effectively tells them that they are above the law, and that the DA’s attempt to hold officers to account is “abhorrent”. No matter what infringements they commit, lives they take, and laws they break, he says to them “I have your back”.  He also committed a brazen act of double-speech when he wrote: “Do your job with honor, follow department policies, and obey the law.”  

Hall did not act honorably when he responded with impatient, dehumanizing, violence against two men of color who were vulnerable and needed a more compassionate intervention.  Hall did not follow department policies when he responded as a third, superfluous, unit to the pursuit of Laudemer Arboleda and when he fired into a moving vehicle with his own supervising sergeant in the line of fire, two clear violations of policy. And he did not obey the law, given that he has been convicted of felony assault with a firearm by a jury of twelve peers and sentenced to six years in prison by a judge thoroughly conversant with the law. Hall has met none of the requirements that Sheriff Livingston has laid out as conditions for his support, yet at the beginning of his letter he claims that, “I was proud to support him publicly and privately after the events of November 3, 2018, and I support him today.” 

This support and the decision to retain Hall following Laudemer’s killing cost Tyrell Wilson his life.  Mr. Wilson’s blood is therefore not only on former Deputy Hall’s hands, but on Sheriff Livingston’s hands as well. In addition to the brazen disregard for life, the takeaway from this is that David O. Livingston, our Sheriff who also possesses a law degree, has his own definition of the law. According to that definition all his actions and those of his deputies are perpetually within lines invisible to members of the public. This is not in keeping with the aspirations of the criminal legal system and it is against the best interests and safety of everyone in our county.

Let us not forget our sheriff’s dismal track record of hiring deputies with problematic histories in other jurisdictions, or soaring in-custody deaths, an AG report that found detained immigrants were being abused, multiple instances of rape and sexual misconduct by guards in county jails, the perpetual disregard for whistleblowers who point out the abuses in the county jail system,  and the Sheriff’s initial refusal to comply with releasing public records in line with the provisions of SB 1421. This isn’t even the first time the Sheriff has been asked to resign by concerned residents.

Hopefully it will be the last, as we have the opportunity to elect a new Sheriff this June who has a definition of the law that everyone can see and respect. 

There are examples of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs leading with honor and integrity, even when they have to make an unpopular move and discipline or remove an officer who has not fulfilled the duty to protect and serve. When a Fresno Officer was revealed to belong to a white-supremacist group and was documented participating in a violent rally, Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama fired him, saying, “Such ideology, behavior and affiliations have no place in law enforcement and will not be tolerated within the ranks of the Fresno Police Department…Public trust and accountability are paramount in our ability to fairly police this community.”  By contrast, Sheriff Livingston characterizes these past several years of increased scrutiny, accountability, and standards in policing as “odd times”. 

We demand the restoration of public trust and accountability in Contra Costa and this starts with the resignation of Sheriff David Livingston. 

It is too late for an apology, we need a clean slate and a new Sheriff. 

Respectfully,

Veronica Benjamin, Co-Founder Conscious Contra Costa

Black Minds Matter 2!

Katie Mahon, Danville resident

The Miles Hall Foundation 

Together We Will – Contra Costa 

Indivisible ReSisters Walnut Creek

Contra Costa Immigrant Rights Alliance 

Elsie Mills, Concord Resident

Greg Kremenliev

Rev. Will McGarvey, Pastor in Pittsburg, and ED of the Interfaith Council.

Together We Stand

Concord Communities Alliance

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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